Dimitar Berbatov: Manchester United are back in the race for Top Four
United in the driving seat for top four
Both teams played well but Manchester United looked a lot smarter than Chelsea, they took their chances to score and got a bit of luck but sometimes you cannot do without it. Overall, it was a very important win for them and I think with their performance they deserved it.
I don’t think they’ve been lacking when it comes to being smart, but sometimes the other team have outsmarted them. Against Chelsea, they played well and took their opportunities to take the three points.
The win will give them a big boost when it comes to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. This is now a great chance for them to put a run together. Every game is a test and if they lose against Watford at the weekend then what’s the point?
They need that factor of consistency now, keeping the run up is so important and now they have made their lives easier because qualifying for the Champions League is in reach and it is pretty much in their hands.
Lucky to get off scot free
Harry Maguire was a lucky boy, but it is what it is. Sometimes you don’t deserve a red card, but you get one, and other times you do deserve to get sent off but don’t.
This is how the game is. In this case, maybe United were a bit lucky, he could have got a red card, and then he went on and scored.
Sometimes as an individual, and a team, you need to be smarter, even more so when you are the captain. I know how difficult it is, we are all human beings and you can let yourself loose with emotions, but you need to keep telling yourself that you need to lead by example, especially when you are the captain. Maguire went on to prove his leadership with the goal he scored, but overall, he was fortunate not to see red.
The game against Chelsea was the fourth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions for United, which is pleasing to see.
A big mention needs to go to Eric Bailly who played his first game of the season, and for me he was great. The tackle when Mateo Kovacic was one-on-one with David De Gea and he threw himself in the way to clear the ball was a big point in the game. Overall, the defence is getting better and better and I hope they can continue in that way. Sometimes, and clean sheet and one goal is all you need to be champions.
Next, they face Club Brugge who, if they are smart, they have an opportunity to get a result against, then they face Watford at Old Trafford. All respect to them but they are coming to Manchester and United must take advantage of that, for sure, they cannot draw or lose that game. If they come away this week with three wins then it will really build confidence and like I said, the Champions League spot is there for the taking.
The players will be speaking about it and even if they don’t they will feel it, they will go home and look at the fixtures and the table and they will be telling themselves ‘that is what we want, there it is, now we have a chance, we are Manchester United.’ They will be building themselves up and as soon as they get on the training ground that feeling will grow around all the players.
Losing Son is another big blow
I remember watching the game against Aston Villa and I recall the goal he scored in the last minute which is a credit to him for playing through the pain in that game.
It is a major blow for the team that he is now on the side line along with Harry Kane, two big players that score crucial goals, it’s a problem and one that Jose Mourinho needs to deal with. I’m sure he has a couple of options and plans in his head but now the other players need to step up and it’s a big chance. I am a bit worried because two major players are out, I think they will manage.
One of the players who can step up in Son’s absence is latest signing, Steven Bergwijn. He’s getting into it nicely, the goal he scored against City was great and his overall play is really good. He’s doing really well, and I hope he continues that way and takes this opportunity to make a real impression on the team.
Spurs have a tough match against RB Leipzig this week, and now it will be even more difficult with the injury to Son. The visitors have an unbelievable coach. I have watched Julian Nagelsmann for a couple of years now and I think he is doing a great job, I have no doubt that one day he will be leading out one of the biggest clubs in the world, and he’s younger than me!
Of course, with my history, I would like to see Bayer Leverkusen in the latter stages of the Champions League, like they were when I played there, but at the moment it is a credit to Leipzig that they have got themselves into this position and they mustn’t be underestimated, you can see the results they have. They aren’t a team full of superstars, but they have great balance and they are pushing Bayern Munich
Rules are the rules
When the news came through on Friday evening about Manchester City’s Champions League ban, I can imagine the red part of Manchester was popping off bottles of Champagne. If they have broken the rules on Financial Fair Play, then they deserved to be punished. Being banned from the Champions League for two years is a massive punishment because we all know how bad City want to win that tournament and if they don’t win it this year their hopes will be crushed.
It’s a big deal for the whole of Europe and UEFA are trying to show that people must stick to the rules. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have as a team, the rules are the rules. Overall, for English football it’s not good for the reputation but it’s something that the people in charge domestically should talk about more, it’s a big decision to ban them for two years but if they have broken the rules then they deserve it.
I read a lot of speculation about the future of Pep Guardiola and I don’t think he should walk away from City, nor do I think he needs to. Who knows what will happen if they appeal, but if he is happy there, the people trust him, the team wants him, and the fans love him, why does he need to leave?
As for the players at City, who are used to playing in the Champions League, to have it taken away from you because of the club’s ban won’t be a good feeling.
Will they want to stay? Will they want to move so they can play in the competition? What do you do?
It is a situation that the club need to handle, I have read that Raheem Sterling plans to stay which is a great way to start because you want your star player to stay. If they are to be banned it all comes down to personal ambition, what people want to achieve but it is different for everyone.
The players aren’t running the club, they are just playing football, so it is understandable if they feel some injustice. I’m sure some of the players will have questions and thoughts will pop into their head. I’m curious to see how they will react in this situation, because it is a difficult one.
The game against Real Madrid is even more interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing how they react in this competition.
This decision and uncertainty will no doubt be on their minds, even though they are hoping for their appeal to go through but walking onto the pitch I’m sure it will be forgotten because that is the time to focus on the opposition, playing the game and scoring goals, but in the days running up to that match it will be on their mind. They need to tell themselves to concentrate and forget about it, it won’t be easy, it will depend on how strong they are mentally.
On the other hand, they can also use this situation as motivation to go on and win the trophy. It is a big test but if they do go on to win it, the club can pick up the trophy and say to UEFA see you in two years. It’s a possibly because they are a strong team and they have been gunning for it for a long time now.
Barcelona look like they have their man, but it will be unfair
I have been following Barcelona’s hunt for a striker over the past few weeks, and even though they need to sign someone, I read that they are going to trigger the release clause of Leganes’ Martin Braithwaite.
The rules in Spain mean that they can do this. It’s a tricky situation for the player. If you are playing for a team that is fighting for relegation, you want to stay and help them. But at the same time one of the biggest teams in the world has come calling for you, this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you must choose carefully.
For me, the rules in this situation are unfair, but these are the rules and if Barca want a striker I am sure they will get one. How much Braithwaite will play and how he fits into the team is a different story.
He could go from the bottom to the top, but people could label him as a traitor, questions will be asked of him, the fans won’t want him to give up on them. It’s a tough situation.
At the same time, you need to follow your own dream and your own path. I can’t blame him if he goes to Barcelona, if I was in the same position and one of the biggest clubs in the world came for me I would go, these chances don’t happen all the time in football.